Image Credit: Big World Cinema
The director of Kenya’s first LGBT-themed movie, the lesbian love story Rafiki, is in a race against time to have the Kenyan ban on the film lifted.
Wanuri Kahiu has filed a lawsuit against the Kenya Film Classification Board chief Ezekiel Mutua and the country’s attorney general in a bid to get the film released in Kenya before September 30 so she can enter it in the Best Foreign Film category at the 2019 Oscars. Submissions for the Oscars close at 5pm on October 1st.
Rafiki made history this year when it became the first Kenyan movie to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and its screening at TIFF – The Toronto International Film Festival - last week sold out. Kahiu adapted the film from the award-winning short story Jambula Tree by Ugandan writer Monica Arac.
The Kenyan Film Classification Board announced in April that Kafiki was banned “due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law and dominant values of the Kenyans.”
"It is our considered view that the moral of the story in this film is to legitimize lesbianism in Kenya," the board's statement said.
"Any attempt to introduce and normalize homosexuality in Kenya flies in the face of the law and the constitution and must be resisted."
Homosexual sex is illegal in Kenya and punishable with up to 14 years in prison. Kenya also has a 1960s law which allows the government to “control the making and exhibition” of audio visual material including films.
“The decision to restrict the film was unconstitutional and a violation of my right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom of artistic creativity,” Kahiu said through her lawyers.
“As the director, I took lead in the creative elements relating to the making of the motion picture and participated in moulding and integrating them into one dramatic and aesthetic whole. I therefore stand to suffer irreparable loss if the film is left out of the 2019 Oscar awards.”
The case will be heard in the Kenyan High Court this Wednesday.